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NASA Space Transportation Technology

NASA Cancels "Sunjammer" Solar Sail Demonstration Mission 74

An anonymous reader writes "Space News reports that NASA has cancelled its solar sail demonstration mission (also known as Sunjammer) citing "a lack of confidence in its contractor's ability to deliver." "Company president Nathan] Barnes said that in 2011 he reached out to several NASA centers and companies that he believed could build the spacecraft and leave L'Garde free to focus on the solar sail. None of those he approached — he only identified NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — took him up on the offer. Rather than give up on the opportunity to land a NASA contract, L'Garde decided to bring the spacecraft development in house. It did not work out, and as of Oct. 17, the company had taken delivery of about $2 million worth of spacecraft hardware including a hydrazine tank from ATK Space Systems of Commerce, California, and four mono-propellant thrusters from Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California."
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NASA Cancels "Sunjammer" Solar Sail Demonstration Mission

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  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @04:16PM (#48181777)

    And in related news, an earthquake was reported in Sri Lanka

    (A.C. Clarke turning in his grave)

  • by mbone ( 558574 )

    A vote of no confidence. I remember when NASA canceled the USNO FAME [wikipedia.org] satellite - they said it was over the budget, but really it was over the management team. I expect that there is something similar here - fortunately, there is still NASA Marshall's Solar Scout [interplane...erence.org], which is much smaller and cheaper than the Sunjammer.

  • by TWX ( 665546 )
    I wonder how much they've been paid or are being paid.

    PerkinElmer is still in business, by the way.
  • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @04:51PM (#48181877)

    Whenever NASA (or any other agency) cancels a contract because they lack confidence in the contractor, it probably means that someone in the government is paying attention to what's going on, and is holding the responsible party's feet to the fire.

    Compare this to situations where billions of dollars of money are tossed away in the pursuit of unworking (and possibly unworkable) missle defense systems. [latimes.com]

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      Oh, yes. FAME (to pick my previous example) absolutely deserved to be canceled. It hurt some people I have real respect for, but there it is. I am sure the current situation is pretty similar. (This is analogous to firing a contractor when they are halfway finished building an addition to your house - it is so messy and represents such a real loss of money, and also such a loss of face, that it is almost never done without some real provocation.)

      • And yet, as with your house analogy, it's better to bring in a competent contractor to set things right, than to soldier on and live in a house that threatens to collapse in the first strong wind.

        • by mbone ( 558574 )

          Well, it's an analogy. Generally, in the spacecraft case, the plug is just pulled, for a bunch of different reasons (which is why it doesn't happen all that often). In this case, L'Garde was trying to reuse a bunch of technology they developed for previous inflatable structures in space. This led to the sail inflation mechanism weighing more than the Sunjammer itself, which is not desirable, and likely not what you would do if you started from scratch. No new contractor would want to come in and try and mak

    • I see you're new to the US, Welcome! Things here rarely are canceled because they're "holding the responsible party's feet to the fire". Projects can go orders of magnitude over their budgets, with less capabilities then promised and and still continue unquestioned (F-35, Big Dig, Bridge to Nowhere, Afghan command center, Solyndra). The only thing that really stops a project is if it doesn't have enough political clout and the money is wanted by those who do or it is proven beyond all doubt that it will

      • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @06:49PM (#48182415)

        Actually, I've been a private IT contractor supporting various government branches for about 25 years now. :-) I've actually seen projects -- not mine, thankfully -- cancelled for precisely the reason stated in this article: the contractor was screwing up royally, and the Federal managers did not want a flaming disaster on their hands.

  • Planetary Society (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SpammersAreScum ( 697628 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @05:44PM (#48182103)
    The Planetary Society's LightSail project [planetary.org] is apparently still on track, so Clarke (and we) shouldn't despair just yet.

How long does it take a DEC field service engineer to change a lightbulb? It depends on how many bad ones he brought with him.

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